EDEN IS WEST
Elias (Riccardo Scamarcio) is one of the desperates who has paid to be smuggled on a ship bound for France. But when a coast guard is about to inspect the vessel, Elias and his friend (Odysseas Papaspiliopoulos) jump overboard and swim to shore. Elias finds himself in a luxury resort called Eden, where Christina (Juliane Köhler), a guest from Hamburg, takes a shine to him. But the ever-presence of police searching for illegal immigrants prompt Elias to hit the road and heads for Paris, inspired by the invitation of a travelling magician Nick Nickelby (Ulrich Tukur) performing there.
Review by Louise Keller:
There's a taste of heaven and hell in this likeable road movie that addresses the plight of illegal immigrants within a cocktail of drama, poetry and humour. Director Costa-Gavras takes his own story as a Greek immigrant living in Paris to inject a personal touch to the story in which handsome Riccardo Scamarcio's asylum seeker Elias finds nothing but the unexpected as he looks for a new life. People, places and circumstances are as uncertain as a choppy sea, which is where the story begins. Nothing goes to plan and through the ups and downs, there's a little sprinkling of magic that entices him to his final destination. Charismatic Scamarcio holds our attention throughout as his Elias is used, abused, seduced, chased and cosseted. The themes may be serious, but the execution has a light touch as Elias' adventures play out with good natured humour.
Eden is not necessarily Paradise as Elias quickly discovers when his bid for freedom in an illegal boat lands him in deep water, before making him a virtual prisoner in an exclusive resort. It is ironic that when Elias opens his eyes after his traumatic escape from the coastguards, he finds himself on a nude beach; all he has to do to escape attention is take off his clothes. Much to our amusement, he is quickly roped into the lifestyle. He is mistaken for a plumber and a luggage handler, before being singled out by Ulrich Tukur's nimble-fingered touring magician Nick as his onstage assistant. He becomes an object of sexual desire too by both sexes, although it is his affair with Juliane Köhler's attractive German tourist Christina that holds our attention. The night scene in which guests are invited to 'find the immigrants' as if it were a treasure hunt beggars belief, but for the most part, Elias' surprising journey as he is prised from one situation to another, is continually arresting.
Leaving Eden Club Paradise (and that sumptuous food buffet) is harder than Elias can imagine, but soon he is on the road again, being befriended by strangers in cars, trucks, tractors and trains. Police authorities looking for identification papers are never far away but it is the kindness of strangers in Costa-Gavras' film that reinforces and restores our faith in mankind, as the modern-day Ulysses is offered a meal, a lift or new clothes. It's an engaging story and Scamarcio, who impressed in My Brother Is An Only Child, carries the film with natural ease as he uses his looks, charm and vulnerability.
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EDEN IS WEST (M)
Eden à l'Ouest
CAST: Riccardo Scamarcio, Odysseas Papaspiliopoulos, Lea Wiazemsky, Tess Spentzos, Kristen Ross, Stella-Melina Vasilaki, Gil Alma, Eric Caravaca, Marisha Triantafillidou, Konstantinos Markoulakis, Mona Achache
PRODUCER: Costa-Gavras, Manos Krazias, Jérôme Seydoux
SCRIPT: Costa-Gavras, Jean-Claude Grumberg
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Patrick Blossier
EDITOR: Yannick Kergoat
MUSIC: Armand Amar
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alexandre Bancel
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Jump Street Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 20, 2009